Pete Peterson Does Outreach to the Left

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Pete Peterson, bête noir of Social Security advocates, does some outreach to the left in an interview with Benjy Sarlin of the Daily Beast:

On an ideological level, caricatures of Peterson as Grover Norquist-lite do not stand up to scrutiny. Peterson accurately noted to the Beast that he includes many dissenting views from the right and left at his events. The Fiscal Summit, for example, featured President Clinton and the chairmen of major progressive think tanks, the Center for American Progress, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the Economic Policy Institute. And the America Speaks discussion group, despite its embarrassing correction, ended up finding participants in favor of protecting benefits and taxing the rich.

Peterson’s emphasis on entitlement cuts rankles progressives, but many of his recommendations for closing the budget gap would be perfectly at home in a Democratic administration. He favors a carbon tax to raise revenue and combat climate change, and advocates cuts to defense spending. Much like Obama, he identifies growing health-care costs as a bigger driver of red ink than Social Security and his proposed solution, weaning doctors off of a fee-for-service system, is in line with the ideas of Democratic wonks like Atul Gawande. He supports running up the short-term deficit to overcome the recession, including extending unemployment benefits. He begins most of his speeches with an attack on Republicans’ zealous obsession with tax cuts—a trend he’s been pushing against since the 1980s, when he decried Ronald Reagan’s supply-side economics.

I think it’s a disturbing fact about American politics and society that a lone billionaire with an obsession can have such an impact on elite political discourse. But politics is (sometimes) more complicated than black hats vs white hats and this is one of those situations.